The second episode of “Chicago: City of the Century” is dedicated to the events happening in Chicago after the big fire until the mass protests and conflicts of anarchists and socialists with capitalists in the beginning of the 20th century. The author focuses spectators’ attention to the strikes and social conflicts in Chicago on the eve of the new century and shows the fullness of this problem.
Firstly the author brings attention to the process of rebuilding the city and a conflict over Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. The lady was accused to be responsible for the fire but the narrator clarifies that people were only looking for a patsy of the fire, not a real reason what caused so much damage. Finally when this was forgotten, the city began to rebuild. The author sees it as an extraordinary example because people in Chicago took it not as a burden but as an opportunity. The author brings together different viewpoints and gathers comments of local people stating that this probably was a reason of a success of a newly built city.
Gustavus Swift’s case is investigated in detail. Swift was a cattle dealer who started shipping beef on big distances. Through this story the author tells how a business which seemed to be impossible in the beginning actually proved to be very successful. Another character who became a successful owner in Chicago was called Pullman. He implemented sleeping cars in the trains calling them “Palace Cars”. His principle was “beauty uplifts behavior”. The narrator chronicles this affair as another example of Chicago’s innovation. Also the author brings up the topic of new buildings – skyscrapers and notes the point of using glass. For example it played a huge role in shops – seeing things from the street a person was motivated to come in and buy something.
The narrator does not pass over that by 1900 Chicago had the best urban transit system in the world comparing that twenty years earlier it was a mess. The person who implemented this project was Charles Tyson Yerkes. Also the film contains some facts about Marshall Field's – a huge company of department stores and its unexpected growth.
At the same time the author presents the conflict of different ways of life. He notes that there were Catholics and Protestants as well as those who spoke English and who didn’t and stayed alien to American way of life. Thereafter frequent demonstrations shaked the city demanding an eight-hours-working day.
On the eve on a new century Chicago became a place where capitalists wanted to earn money, while anarchists and revolutionaries protested all their attempts. Therefore the filmmaker puts an emphasis on economics and strikes organized by socialists. It caused a huge threat for capitalists and their property. For instance the film brings a few viewpoints upon the McCormick riot – a conflict which arose on the 3rd of May 1886 and ended up with a police attack. This conflict was caused by the tensions over working conditions at McCormick’s plant and partly initiated by anarchists.
The episode is concluded with a phrase “The elite's attempt to project an image of urban harmony to the world would not be easy”. Truly, the period was very challenging for the city but he emphasizes that its uniqueness and a new approach to economy and industry was a key for its success.